Mad Made Mod: Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Presents World Premiere Adaptation of “Madness and Civilization

Prof. Natsu Onoda Power creates visually arresting production out of nonfiction Foucault treatise

January 20, 2010 — Washington, D.C. — The Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program presents the world premiere of “Madness and Civilization” from Feb. 11-20, 2010 (showtimes below) at the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Gonda Theatre. Inspired by the 1961 nonfiction book by French psychologist and philosopher Michel Foucault, which examines the archeology of madness in the West from the Middle Ages forward, this mind-altering, multimedia, ensemble-based production explores madness through ideas, visual images, literature and art. In the show, 60s-mod-clad nurses sing and dance to French techno-pop; performers reenact 17th-century treatments for insanity involving tubs of water, leeches, enemas, and a branding iron; and audience members play mad libs with the cast and enjoy “antipsychotic cocktails” served in the style of a cooking show.

The book is adapted for the stage and directed by GU Professor Natsu Onoda Power, who has been praised by the Washington Post for her “nifty visual tricks” and “delightfully unexpected” solutions for the stage (for her 2007 Georgetown production of “Trees and Ghosts,” adapted from Japanese graphic novels) and for her “stirring theatricality” (for the 2008 Capital Fringe Festival production of Live Action Cartoonists’ “Revenge of the Poisoned Ladies.”) She is also the author of “God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga.”

“We are thrilled to present another brilliant, groundbreaking and genre-defying offering from Professor Onoda Power, one of the field’s most innovative artist/scholars,” says Davis Performing Arts Center Artistic Director Derek Goldman. “This extraordinary world-premiere combines ethnographic work with medical, sociological, literary, and anthropological perspectives, all adapted and devised in non-traditional and often humorous ways, and featuring her trademark innovative mixed-media design. It promises to be a poignant and provocative centerpiece to our ongoing season Going Mad: Shattering and Re-Imagining the Real.”

Onoda Power recalls first encountering Foucault’s book in graduate school, but says “I became more interested in it in recent years, through experiences of visiting my brother-in-law at a mental institution.” Loosely based on Foucault’s longer book titled “Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique” (from which the English edition titled “Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason” was abridged), this play also draws significantly from other sources including historical books on mental illnesses and asylums, interviews, and oral texts. A character modeled after Onoda Power’s brother-in-law appears in the production.

In the fall semester 2009, Onoda Power taught a Georgetown course titled “Performing Madness,” which examined the relationship between mental illness and performance and included a visit to a group home for the mentally ill. Onoda Power, 10 students, and lighting designer Tobin D. Clark ran a two-day theatrical workshop with the residents, leaving with an incredibly rewarding and moving experience. This workshop inspired some of the scenes in the production.

Onoda Power describes the design of “Madness and Civilization” as “institutional yet playful, wacky,” and “surprise-filled,” with costumes that are a mixture of “17th-century-asylum-chic and 60s mod.” The creative team includes composer Evan Rogers, costume co-designers Lauren Cucarola and Elise Lemle, lighting designer Tobin D. Clark and scenic designer Natsu Onoda Power.

Showtimes are listed below:

Thursday-Saturday, February 11-13, 2010 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 2 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday, February 17-20, 2010 at 8 p.m.

Tickets for Friday and Saturday evenings only are $18 general; $15 GU faculty/staff/alumni/senior (65 or older); and $10 student. Tickets for all other performances are $15 general; $12 faculty/staff/alumni/senior (65 or older); and $7 student. To order or for more information, visit or call (202) 687-ARTS (2787) Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Also available for purchase this season is the Theater & Performance Studies Program’s new Flex Pass, which entitles the bearer to four tickets to any combination of the shows in the GOING MAD season: just $50 for the general public (up to 30% savings), $40 for faculty/staff/alumni/senior (up to 33% savings) and $20 for Georgetown University students (up to 50% savings).

The Davis Performing Arts Center’s 2009-10 “Going Mad: Shattering & Re-Imagining the Real” season will conclude with “The Grace of Mary Traverse” April 8-17, 2010, and also featured productions of “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and “Caroline, or Change” in Oct. and Nov. 2009 respectively. Georgetown University’s main campus is located at 3700 O St. NW, in Washington, D.C.

About the Georgetown University Theater & Performance Studies Program
Part of Georgetown University’s Department of Performing Arts, the Theater and Performance Studies Program integrates creative and critical inquiry, emphasizing artistic excellence, interdisciplinary learning, socially-engaged performance, and the spirit of collaboration. Now offering a dynamic major in Theater and Performance Studies, the Program features a nationally-recognized faculty, including a number of the field’s leading scholar/artists, and many of the region’s leading professional theater practitioners. One of the country’s only undergraduate programs in Theater and Performance Studies, the fast-growing program has rapidly attracted significant national attention for its distinctive curriculum, reflecting the political and international character of Georgetown, as well as for its commitment to social justice, and its high-quality, cutting-edge student production seasons. The Theater and Performance Studies Program is distinctive for its focus on adapting, devising and developing new work, civic theater and community-based performance, political theater, international and crosscultural performance, playwriting, performance art, solo and multimedia performance, ensemble-created performance, physical theater, world theater history, and innovative approaches to design and technology, acting, directing, dramaturgy, technical theater, and more.

A partial and rapidly growing list of theatrical luminaries who have had sustained contact with Georgetown students in the Davis Center includes: Theodore Bikel, Irina Brown, Dan Conway, Nilo Cruz, Peter DiMuro, David Dower, Joe Dowling, Olympia Dukakis, David Edgar, Rick Foucheux, Michael Friedman, Marcus Gardley, Ed Gero, Danny Hoch, David Henry Hwang, Moises Kaufman, Liz Lerman, Emily Mann, Sister Helen Prejean, Heather Raffo, Clint Ramos, Stephen Richard, Ari Roth, Christopher Sivertsen, Molly Smith, Tony Taccone, Irina and Paata Tsikurishvili, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Charles Randolph Wright, Karen Zacarias, and Mary Zimmerman.


Laura Mertens
(202) 687-6933